Pacific Symphony Opens 35th Season with 19-Year-Old Pianist, Conrad Tao, 9/26
Pacific Symphony celebrates its 35th anniversary season by opening with a concert featuring the stunning virtuosity of 19-year-old piano phenomenon Conrad Tao, who returns for his third appearance to perform Rachmaninoff's powerful Piano Concerto No. 3, featured in the 1996 hit movie "Shine." Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, the concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 26-28, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
An acclaimed pianist himself, Rachmaninoff wrote and debuted this dazzling showpiece for his North American tour in 1909. Tao-hailed as both an "exciting prodigy" and "breathtaking"- is sure to give a jaw-dropping performance when he tackles this piece, one of the repertoire's most powerful, most demanding and most loved works. Fittingly, the evening opens with the short and jubilant "Festivities" by California-based composer Peter Boyer and concludes with Brahms' monumental Symphony No. 4, sweeping with melodic writing and dual emotions of joy and sorrow.
As Rachmaninoff's close friend Clara Schumann observed of the music: "It is as though one lay in springtime among the blossoming flowers, and joy and sorrow filled one's soul in turn." Season-ticket packages for the Classical series are $240-$975. Single tickets for this concert are $25-$99. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.
"It is always a wonderful moment to welcome the return of a new season and to greet our faithful audience back to the hall, as well as new family members, after a summer under the stars," says Maestro St.Clair. "For the orchestra, celebrating our 35th Anniversary is a milestone. It also symbolizes the importance the Symphony has grown to have within our community. Conrad is an exciting artist and we love having him perform with our orchestra. It will be especially memorable to have him open our season with Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, a favorite of almost everyone. And offering a masterwork like the Fourth Symphony of Johannes Brahms is also a wonderful way to say 'welcome back.'"
An opening night celebration, "Rachmaninoff-From Russia with Love," takes place Thursday, Sept. 26, beginning at 5 p.m., at the Center Club in Costa Mesa, and includes a delectable dinner, concert and post-concert reception with desserts and entertainment (including dancers from UC-Irvine)-all wrapped in Russian elegance. The event's presenting sponsor is South Coast Plaza and OMEGA at Tourbillon Boutique is the retail partner. For more information about purchasing a table or individual seats and concert tickets, contact the Symphony's special events department at (714) 876-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last but not least, Tao returns for a fourth performance and the start of the Sunday Connections series, "Rach 3 Revealed," on Sunday, Sept. 26, at 3 p.m. Maestro St.Clair serves as host to bring the composer and his music-one of the most difficult and most beautiful concertos in the repertoire-to life. Sunday Connections (full of personal and insightful commentary) four-concert season packages are $85-$285. Single tickets are $25-$85. For more information or to purchase subscriptions or single tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
"Most of my time is spent trying to understand the work structurally-it's a huge piece!-so that I can feel free, in performance, to be spontaneous and impulsive," says the dynamic pianist, Tao. "It's an incredibly colorful piece filled with ageless melodies...which equals endless possibilities...which equals endless fun for me! I'm looking forward to working with Carl St.Clair again! The past two experiences were galvanizing music-making and I'm excited for more."
Tao was first introduced to the Symphony's audiences in 2010-11 when, at just 16, he stepped in at the last minute for Yuja Wang to perform Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." His performance caused the Los Angeles Times to write: "In a dashing account of Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody,' his attacks were crisp, with rhythmically tricky high-velocity passages cleanly articulated. Throughout, there was a sense that Tao was having fun."
The Symphony immediately invited him back, and in October 2012, he performed Grieg's Piano Concerto, for which Timothy Mangan from the Orange County Register wrote, "This was a youthful performance (in a good way), enthusiastic and strongly felt. At the same time, he revealed a real understanding of the score in his crisply inflected and strongly sculpted fortissimos and effervescent scherzando playing. His phrasing was consistently alert and active, shaded and colored sensitively, but it never put on airs. The music was the thing. St.Clair and the orchestra supported him handsomely, and caught Tao's fire."
The only classical musician on Forbes' 2011 "30 Under 30" list of people changing the world, 19-year-old Chinese-American pianist Tao was found playing children's songs on the piano at 18 months of age. Born in Urbana, Ill., he gave his first piano recital at age 4; four years later, he made his concerto debut performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414. In June of 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named Tao a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, while the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music. Later that year, he was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Tao sports an impressive career as an international soloist, is also an award-winning violinist and an accomplished composer. He currently attends the Columbia University/Juilliard School joint degree program. He just released his second record, "Voyages," with EMI in June 2013, which prominently features his own compositions.
Tao's appearance launches the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series 2013-14, a milestone anniversary season featuring both beloved masterpieces and adventurous new works, performed by many of today's most exciting soloists. Seeking to balance great traditions in orchestral music with new discoveries, the season includes repertoire new to Symphony audiences, non-traditional interpretations by guest artists and conductors, creative approaches to program design and inventive staging.
Among the 2013-14 season highlights are three new innovative Music Unwound programs: "Rodrigo's Concierto," "Toradze Plays Shostakovich" and Stravinsky's "Carmina Burana"; a continuation of the opera initiative that launched in 2011-12-"Symphonic Voices"-featuring Verdi's "La Traviata"; and the critically-acclaimed American Composers Festival enters its 14th year with "From Score to Screen," celebrating the music of Hollywood composers Hans Zimmer, Elliot Goldenthal and Bernard Herrmann.
Pacific Symphony's Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines; The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC; and PBS SoCal. Sunday Connections receives support from KPCC. Artist sponsor for this concert is Sam Ersan. The Thursday night concert is sponsored by South Coast Plaza; Friday night's sponsors are Vina Williams and Tom Slattery; and Saturday night's sponsor is Bank of America.